Gbagbo, Laurent

Gbagbo, Laurent lōrăNˈ bägˈbō [key], 1945–, Ivoirian political leader, b. Gagnoa. After studying at the Univ. of Abidjan and the Univ. of Paris, Gbagbo became a history teacher and union activist in Abidjan. He was imprisoned (1971–73) for subversive teaching, then worked as a researcher at the Institute of History, Art, and African Archeology at the Univ. of Abidjan (1974–82), becoming director in 1980. In 1982 he cofounded a radical teachers' union that later became the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, and that same year went into exile in France. Upon his return in 1988 he was named secretary-general of the FPI. He served in parliament (1990–2000), and was jailed again for six months in 1992 for leading demonstrations.

Gbagbo won the Ivoirian presidency in 2000 under tumultous circumstances that included the banning of Alassane Ouattara, a popular northerner, from the contest. Under Gbagbo, the nation was torn by ethnic divisions. He survived coup attempts and a civil war (2002–3) that split Côte d'Ivoire into government and rebel zones of control, and remained in office as a new election was repeatedly postponed. In 2010, when the ballot was finally held, he lost the presidency to Ouattara after a runoff, but attempted to hold onto power with the army's support by having some of the results declared invalid. After civil war re-erupted in Feb., 2011, he was captured and arrested (April) by northern forces. In Nov., 2011, he was transferred to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to face charges of crimes against humanity arising from the postelection violence; he was acquitted in 2019 but required to stay in Belgium while prosecutors appealed. In 2015 his wife was among those convicted in an Ivoirian court on charges arising from the aftermath of the 2010 election; she was granted amnesty in 2018.

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